Liberia: UP Caucus Warns Govt Against Civil Servants' Salary Cut

Council of Patriots say their short-term demands include the immediate dismissal and prosecution of Tweah (left) and Patray (right)

-- 2019/2020 Budget to be Submitted Today

The Acting Chairman of the Unity Party Legislative Caucus in the House of Representatives has warned the CDC-led government against plans to cut civil servants' salaries in the 2019/2020 national budget, as part of the austerity measures, arguing that it would set a very bad precedence that might lead to civil unrest of the over 65,000 civil servants.

Montserrado County District #17 Representative, Hanson Kiazolu, said the consideration of the ruling party to cut civil servants' salaries will be resisted by the UP Caucus and, if the cut is passed, it will be restored.

The Montserrado County lawmaker said the issues of 'fixing' the economy by slicing civil servants' salaries are not only a very bad precedence but will not work in the interest of the country because purchasing power will drastically reduce and work habits will be compromised.

Rep. Kiazolu, the Acting Chairman of the House's Bank and Currency Committee and a former Comptroller General of the Republic of Liberia, said that the CDC-led government can pay civil servants' salaries with the collections of domestic revenues, arguing that the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not use donor money to pay civil servants but from domestic revenues.

According to him, at least US$500 million are collected annually from domestic revenue, which can settle civil servants' salaries to avoid resistance to the added hardship amid the bad economy.

"I am cautioning government to not cut civil servants' salaries because it will bring about disturbance because the economy is already bad and, if we do not direct investment coming in to boost the domestic revenue, we will have perennial of issues and problems and we don't want those kinds of issues. Therefore, what has been collected, let civil servants be paid from what was collected; government has sliced salaries before and should not go in that direction again," Rep. Kiazolu said.

"If this government blotted the payrolls, they did it on their own risks, so they should not cut civil servants salaries."

The Acting UP Caucus chairman urged the CDC-led government to use other austerity measures, strengthen its stance against corruption and leave the civil servants salaries.

He also urged the ruling party to draft a realistic 2019/2020 budget basedon domestic revenues and warned them against donors or international contribution to draft the budget. He ow say there will be hardship if external support are not included in the country's budget.

"We are in favor of a realistic budget, the Liberia Revenue Authority should give us a realistic revenue projection. We should depend our growth on external sources; it should be determined on our revenue projection and, based on that, our growth will gradually come about. We call against budget malfeasances."

He added: "The Ministry of Finance should look on other lines to streamline the budget to leave the civil servants' salaries alone."

"But if there will be no external sources, there will be hardship... hardship will ensue and they have to bear it."

He however revealed that the CDC led government is negotiating with Montserrado, Margibi and Bong Counties to remit half of the US$4 million China Union Social Development Money into the 2019/2020 budget.

He said Montserrado County has agreed for US$500,000 to be remitted and called on other counties to do the same to support the budget amid the budget constraints and bad economy.

It may be recalled that, besides the UP Caucus, the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC) has also vowed to robustly and vigorously expose whosoever will be involved in manipulations and deceptions in the 2019/2020 Budget and urged the CDC led government to submit a realistic budget.

The ILC comprises 14 like-minded members of the House of Representatives.

Furthermore, the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) has also called on the CDC led government to use a structural reform in the way the national budget is developed and formulated.

IREDD argued that the current state of the national budget only entrenches poverty, undermines development and is counterproductive to the attainment of the very Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) of the Weah Administration.

Meanwhile, in a communication to the House of Representatives, on April 23, 2019, President George M. Weah, requested an extension of the deadline for the submission of the 2019/2020 budget from April 30, 2019 to June 15, 2019.

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